Chromeo at Guitar Center:
Ah, the unmistakable electro-funk of the ’80s. Drum machines,
slap bass, lyrics about girls, and synths, synths, synths. You either
loved it, hated it, or were young enough that you cared about
Transformers more than music. Chromeo loved it, and even if you
didn’t, we dare you to listen to any track off Fancy Footwork or
their 2004 debut She’s in Control without a bounce buoying your
booty and an ear-to-ear grin moonwalking across your mug.
So imagine the size of our collective grin
when Dave 1 (David Macklovitch on guitar
and lead vocals) and P-Thugg (Patrick
Gemayel on synths, beats, and talkbox
vocals) sauntered across the historic
RockWalk into Guitar Center Hollywood,
right after blowing the crowd away at the
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in
Tennessee, and right before heading
to upstate New York to do an episode
of “Live From Daryl’s House,” a video
webcast hosted by pop icon Daryl Hall.
How does the songwriting process work
between the two of you?
P-Thugg: It’s different for every song.
Sometimes, I just write a lot of grooves and
verses and send it to Dave. If the song is
good enough, he starts writing lyrics. Other
times, he just comes up with a melody or
some words and brings it to me.
Dave 1: I know it’s cliché to say “It
depends,” but in our case, it really does.
It’s really one of two ways. The first way is,
well – P has a studio in his house, and he’s
usually in there all the time, making demos.
So he’ll just send me a ton of, like, maybe
four- or eight-bar loops and sequences.
Whatever I have a reaction to, I’ll start
writing melodies, chord changes, and lyrics
to. Then I’ll go to his studio and show him
that stuff. Usually, I’ll do some sequencing
as well. Then, P comes back later on and
adds all those little keyboard touches – all
those little “ear worms” – that are really our
The second way is that sometimes, I’ll come
up with a song, and I purposely don’t work
with any instruments initially; I just keep
a lot of stuff in my head, say, a verse and
chorus pretty much mapped out. If he likes
it, we’ll put it together and mock up a demo.
If it sticks with him, he’ll be inspired to work
on it, then he bounces it back to me, and we
go back and forth.
When keyboard players come into Guitar
Center looking for gear, they want to
know how guys like you get your sounds.
All your beats and drum sounds on
Fancy Footwork take us right back to the
’80s, so let’s start there.
P-Thugg: The drums are all either vintage
drum machines, or an Akai MPC1000, which
is one of the two smallest ones. It might
surprise you, but I actually don’t have a
Roland TR-808, though I do have samples of
it loaded into the Akai MPC. I also use an old
Sequential Circuits DrumTraks.
What do you like best about the
P-Thugg: It has a clean sound, and makes
everything really punchy and loud. I’ll
sometimes sample, say, a kick from the
DrumTraks into it, if I want it to have a more
bottom-y, compressed sound.
Describe your favorite synth sound
or technique, or your first memory of
hearing something on a record that made
you say to yourself, “Man, I wanna make
Dave 1: One of my favorite keyboard motifs
is the standard Minneapolis funk drum-andsynth
interplay. You’ll have a tight funk beat like “Boom, krak! Boom-boom. krak!” on a
drum machine, and over that you have these
keyboard stabs that are essentially like big
band horn parts, only played with an analog
brass sound. We did that on “Outta Sight”
on our album, but that song wouldn’t have
been possible without “Sussudio” by Phil
Collins, which wouldn’t have been possible
without Prince’s “1999,” and the list goes on.
We’re disciples of the Minneapolis sound.
We’re dudes that’ll sit down for hours and
analyze a record by Morris Day and the Time
— everything about it. Same with pop like
like Hall and Oates.
P-Thugg: My first instrument was bass,
but I got into playing keyboards because of
the talkbox. I heard “More Bounce to the
Ounce” by Zapp with Roger Troutman. It’s
not the earliest memory, but it’s definitely
the most important. I heard his talkbox, and
was like, “I have to play this! I have to learn
how to do that robot voice!” We didn’t have
internet back then, but in a thrift store, I
came across this little book on how to make
different pedals and stuff, Electronic Projects
for Guitar. I asked my physics teacher from
school how to do certain things, and wound
up building my first talkbox! Then, I realized
that to get the sound I wanted out of it, I
had to play synthesizers, so there you are.
Onstage, my Rocktron Banshee talkbox is
probably my most important piece of gear.
With the talkbox, what do you use for the
P-Thugg: An old Yamaha DX100, which is
what Roger from Zapp used. I became friends
with one of the guys from his band, and he
sent me the patches by email as MIDI Sys
Ex files. I just dumped ’em in, and there
were all his sounds. I couldn’t believe it. The
whole first row of buttons is one sound that’s
transposed ¬– since he had to concentrate
on singing with the talkbox, he played in a
comfortable key and selected the different
patches for the different songs.
All the Chromeo bass lines are killer, as
well. What do you use for those?
P-Thugg: On Fancy Footwork, I split bass
duties between a vintage Moog Prodigy and
a Nord Modular. It’s one of the best out there
for re-creating vintage sounds. Especially
the second generation, which they call the
G2. I have the original and the G2, and you
can basically re-create any synthesizer if you
know its basic structure and signal path. The
G2 series has options to do the FM synthesis
of the Yamaha DX7, which so much of the
digital-sounding part of ’80s songs relied on.
You can even import old DX7 patches as Sys-
Ex data, right into the Nord! Between the
Nord and Native Instruments FM7, I don’t
need my DX7 anymore!
In the studio, you used a lot of vintage
analog synths. Do you take those out live?
Yeah, in the studio we had a Roland SH-101
and a Juno-106, as well as one of my favorite
synths from the ’80s, the Korg Mono/Poly
– I’ll put it up against a Minimoog any day.
Dave 1: We don’t take any of the vintage
stuff on the road, because it gets beat up way
So how do you recreate the Chromeo
sound onstage? Or how would someone
create it with gear you could find today?
P-Thugg: The Logic people from Apple took
me into a studio for a tutorial on Logic Studio.
It’s pretty cool, and I intend to use it on the
road for ideas. If I have something in my head
that I want to get out, I can bust out Logic
and with the included soft synths, I’ve got a
great Wurlitzer sound, great Rhodes and Clav
sounds, B-3 sounds, synth sounds, all that.
Name one idea each of you would
like fans to take away once they listen
P-Thugg: The sounds are just as important to
me as the music itself. I spend hours listening
to old records and trying to figure out how
they made the keyboard sounds, then recreating
Dave 1: You can write silly pop songs like
ours, but still be rich with influences. It’s a big
musical heritage that we’re carrying, and if
we can add a little footnote to the paragraph,
that’s all we can ask for.